How to Connect an XLR Microphone without an Audio Interface

If you are looking for a way to connect an XLR microphone without an audio interface, this post will show you step by step how to connect it with your computer, depending on the type of your microphone. This works both on Windows as well as Macs. So no matter what type of machine you have, it should be simple.

The solution is surprisingly simple and affordable. The only thing you need to figure out is whether your microphone is a condenser microphone or a dynamic one. Condenser microphones usually require a certain type of power (Phantom) which slightly changes our procedure.

xlr microphone without audio interface

Dynamic XLR Microphones

If you have a dynamic microphone that does not require phantom power, the solution is as simple as getting a different type of cable. A conventional XLR cable would have an XLR connector on both ends. What you’ll need is one that has a female XLR connector on one end, which would connect to your microphone and a USB connector on the other end. That’s pretty much it, no drivers are required so you’ll just plug it in and you’re good to go!

It’s important to keep in mind that an XLR carries an analog signal, whereas the computer interprets a digital signal, so the conversion happening at the USB connector end will introduce some kind of quality degradation, but the extent of this could be negligible, considering the price difference. However, this solution does not work for condenser microphones, as it does not carry the type of power they need. But that’s what the next segment is about.


Condenser XLR Microphones

If you have a condenser microphone that requires phantom power, you can still just as easily use your XLR microphone without an audio interface, albeit this solution is a little pricier. By using a USB signal adapter such as the Shure X2u, with an XLR slot on one side for your microphone, and a USB out on the other side to connect to your PC or Mac.

The 48V switch turns Phantom Power on and off. This means you’ll be able to use it for condenser microphones with it on, then switch it off and use a dynamic microphone as well.

The Shure X2u even has a headphone jack so you’ll be able to monitor your microphone signal live as you record, which is great. It basically acts as a mini audio interface between your microphone cable and PC. On a final note, it doesn’t come with an XLR cable so if you don’t have one already, you’ll need that too.

Should You Use an XLR Microphone Without an Audio Interface?

So now that we know how to use an XLR microphone without an audio interface, let’s discuss if it’s actually a good idea. Remember, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!

But I’ll keep it simple if you have a dynamic microphone or you are purchasing a new one that does not require phantom power, and you are tight on budget, then go with the XLR to USB cable solution above. In general, I’ll always recommend avoiding adapters such as this one for audio quality degradation reasons. Although in this case, the economic savings might just make it worth it.

However, if you are using a condenser microphone, the price difference becomes negligible. Since the solution above is only slightly cheaper than a budget audio interface. So unless you have a specific reason to not want an audio interface, I’d recommend considering it. Otherwise, you can always go with a solution like the Shure x2u I mentioned above!